The U.S. Air Force has awarded a $3.5 million contract to Arkansas Power Electronics International Inc. to develop a high-temperature silicon carbide power module for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Arkansas Power Electronics International (APEI) — the largest company affiliated with the University of Arkansas at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park — specializes in advanced, high-performance electronics for a variety of customers and applications, including the defense, aerospace and hybrid/electric vehicle markets.
The silicon carbide power module that APEI will develop for the fighter jet will be based on the company’s wide band-gap material packaging and device expertise. A wide band-gap material is a semiconductor that withstands much harsher environments and enables high performance applications.
The Air Force contract will fund the transfer of laboratory-tested silicon-carbide power electronics technology developed at APEI to a motor drive on the F-35 that allows the pilot to control the aircraft’s flight control surfaces, which include flight altitude, ability to turn, speed, stability and other vital features.
The Joint Strike Fighter, currently in development, is part of the Air Force’s new “more electric” and “all electric” aircraft design philosophy, which mandates the replacement of costly and bulky mechanical hydraulic aircraft flight control systems with lighter weight, high-reliability, low-maintenance electric motors and drives.
APEI frequently collaborates with faculty at the University of Arkansas and a majority of its 49 employees are graduates of the university.